Allen S. Maller

Is Iran as great a threat to Israel’s existence as mixed marriage is?

Is Iran as great an existential threat to Israel’s Jews as mixed marriage and religious indifference is to Diaspore Jewry?

I don’t think so. Israel can always rely on the IDF to defeat the realization of any potential threat to Israel’s existence; although the cost may be high.

But how will Diaspore Jews, with their low birth rates and high out-marriage rates survive?

Two Jewish community surveys last year (2014) reported more evidence of the impact of the rise in marriage to non-Jews who do not choose to become Jewish.

The good news in Saint Louis is that: 43% of households with at least one child ages 5-17 have sent a child to a Jewish day camp; 27% of all households with children 5-17 have sent a child to an overnight Jewish camp; 27% of households with children 5-17 have sent a child to a Jewish youth group,

The bad news is that 48% of married St. Louis couples are in marriages where the non-Jew does not want to become Jewish, a sharp increase from the 25% reported in 1995.

Thus, it is no surprise that while almost every child in an in-married household is being raised as Jewish only (88%) and almost none are being raised in another religion; of the 43% of all children in St. Louis Jewish households, who live in an intermarried family, only 27% are being raised as Jewish only.

As for the rest of the children 19% are being raised in another religion, 26% without any religion and 18% in a mixture of Christmas/Hanukkah, Seder/Easter dinner, you are half Jewish, mishmash.

In reality, these percentages have stayed fairly constant for more than 50 years, but since the out-marriage rate has more than doubled during that time the impact will become more noticeable.

In Seattle, the other community surveyed things are different but not much different: 61% of Jewish adults are married – of those, 56% are intermarried.

The results of the Seattle survey did not distinguish between in-married and out-married couples so all we say now is that 66% of the children are being raised Jewish only and another 10% are being raised as half Jews; with some Jewish and some other religion.

The remainder are being raised in no religion, or the parents have not yet decided upon a religion in which to raise them. Most of those who have avoided deciding will end up doing a little of one and a little of the other which results in kids who feel half Jewish or half Christian.

About 5-10% of these ‘half Jews’ will marry an ‘all’ Jew and may have Jewish children, but 90%+ will be lost to the Jewish community in the next generation.

If you do the math, 90% of 50% out-married equals 25% (one and a half million) less Jews in North America by 2050.

If it were not for those non-Jews who converted to Judaism in the last generation (about 300-400,000 plus their children) we would already have lost a million Jews.

For Diaspora Jews living in an open society; converts are as important as the IDF is for Israel. May God bless both of them.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 850 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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